“How uncharitable?”- 3 December 2014.

My niece in London had a very pleasant experience in her job when she requested for maternity leave. She feeling bad for the company offered to resign from her post but the company would not listen to her. They informed her that she was perfectly alright in her need to take leave for the baby and could join in after that. After discussions when she expressed her desire for part time work after she joined they agreed for that too. They gave her a warm send off for her maternity leave. She was touched and truly felt obliged and grateful to the company and her colleagues for making her feel so special.

The scene is India is not so kind. The young woman in her early thirties was known to be efficient. She did her work diligently, and with great enthusiasm. When she was around, she spread cheer with her wit and warmth, and the atmosphere in the section was often cheery. Then came a time when the young woman needed a leave for 3-4 months as she was all set to expand her family, expecting a little one whose presence would make all the difference to her life. But then the boss who did not appreciate the fact that he had to give such a long leave to the woman. He did not say anything in protest, but wasn’t happy either as the woman proceeded on maternity leave.
This is a very major issue confronting many an organisation where the bosses just do not understand as to why so much leave-taking could be allowed officially. These bosses do not realise the importance and sanctity of certain unavoidable factors such as this particular kind of long leave.
But by any standard, it is unkind and uncharitable to crib when a woman employee proceeds on maternity leave. To the woman, cribbing may not make any damned difference but if the woman still has to face the barbed looks in the boss’s eyes when she seeks maternity leave (which is her right), then we must say that the Indian society has not progressed much.
The very arithmetic of such leaves is simple, and also negligible. If a woman takes a total leave of a few months in her long career, for as important reason as this one, then what is the big deal when she is going to serve the organisation for years and years?
It is this issue that has not been resolved most amicably in the Indian society. Yes, maternity leaves are granted, but there always are a little unkind looks in the male bosses’ eyes. Even female bosses, of all the persons, are known to crib when another woman seeks such an important leave. Because the issue does not get amicably handled, many a woman is known to have resigned from their otherwise decent jobs.
Of course, being a woman is not an easy business, as all would agree. The woman is one person in the entire family answerable to everyone, whether it is her fault or not her fault. And in matters as important as maternity leave, most organisations have bosses who crib no end. In many organisations, women seeking to avail maternity leave are encouraged to leave the job, and perhaps seek to return after a few months. This may appear crude, but this is a fact all right. This hurts deeply.
Don’t we have men who avail of all kinds of leave for obscure reasons? Then, why should the same bosses grant maternity leave to women employees with a lot of reservations?
From a woman’s point of view, there are simple answers available. But all those responses boil down to only one point: Men in the society do not have much respect for women. In a larger number of organisations, women have to keep facing barbed comment and barbed looks for no fault of theirs. This negative tendency gets stretched to such an extent that women feel uncomfortable in those places.
Certainly, this is not expected of a civilised society. For, at work, the woman has had to face many a negative elements whose genesis and logic she never understands. The uncharitable element in the situation is really dirty, and no woman worth the salt would ever want to face it. In civilised societies, this issue has been sorted out in a matured manner. In India as well, the issue stands settled forever. Yet, occasionally, an anti-woman attitude does lurk up, bothering not just the woman concerned, but also other sane employees.
When our society has accepted the reality of having large numbers of women employees, then there should be no cribbing when they seek long leave for maternity purposes. For a woman, expanding the family means a lot more than words can ever describe. And therefore, when a young woman asks for a long leave for such a purpose, then the bosses must remember that such requests are never going to come on countless occasions. On the contrary, those will come only once or twice in any woman’s case. Any good organisation should have the good enough culture to accept that reality whose arithmetic is not adverse.

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